‘Class war’ against driven grouse shooting led by rural Tories

Those who oppose the excesses of field sports are often written off as ‘lefties’ and ‘townies’ who know nothing about the countryside, as opposed to ‘real country people’ who do. I’ve never seen anything to back up this oft-heard statement, and in another life I used to point out to people voicing it that the RSPB’s membership was concentrated more in Conservative rural seats than in inner cities or big metropolises.

Last week, after just three weeks of existence, our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting passed 12,000 signatures on the ‘Inglorious 12th’ and then rapidly moved past 13,000 signatures.  Are these lefties and townies?

Well, we can’t see who has signed the e-petition but the parliament website on which it sits allows one to check how many people have signed any e-petition in any constituency by entering a postcode. And therefore, to find out how many people signed the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting, so far, in every UK parliamentary constituency one simply needs 650 postcodes (see here) and the time to do it.

Every parliamentary constituency has roughly the same number of voters in it (not exactly, but roughly) and so the number of people signing can be taken as a good index of support.

We (myself, Alan Cranston and Ruth Tingay) collected these data on Wednesday-Friday last week (12-14 August) and so the numbers will have changed (they will have gone up) but the patterns will remain the same although we will update the analysis once the e-petition closes in January. The number of signatures included in this analysis is 12,796.

Here are the results to date, which are quite striking (and the dataset we used is pasted in the previous post).

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1. The national picture

This e-petition is aimed at the Westminster parliament but any UK citizen can sign it. Would Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh residents be less likely to sign because they, possibly, think that lobbying the ‘English’ parliament (this is a devolved matter) is nothing to do with them?:

Scotland: 21.9 signatures/constituency

England: 20.4 signatures/constituency

Wales: 14.4 signatures/constituency

NI: 6.6 signatures/constituency

There is very little grouse shooting in Wales and Northern Ireland but much in Scotland and England. The marginally higher response rate in Scotland shows that even if the fact that this e-petition is aimed at Westminster did reduce the response rate, it is still high. But it could be that the Welsh and Northern Irish think this is an issue that isn’t theirs, directed at a parliament that isn’t really theirs.

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2. The split across political parties

LibDem constituencies (8): 36.4 signatures/constituency

Conservative constituencies (331): 22.7 signatures/constituency

SNP constituencies (56): 20.0 signatures/constituency

Labour constituencies (232): 15.7 signatures/constituency

Conservative constituencies deliver more signatures, on average, than either SNP or Labour ones. There is nothing here to suggest that extreme unease with driven grouse shooting is a ‘class’ or ‘leftie’ issue – more people sign in Conservative-held constituencies.  This also goes a long way  to resolve the ‘town v country’ issue too – the map of the English voting patterns shows the Labour constituencies very much concentrated in urban areas whereas the Conservative constituencies occupy most of the English countryside.

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3. The top 10 and bottom 10 constituencies

The 10 constituencies with the smallest number of signatures to ban driven grouse shooting to date are;

BRENT NORTH LAB 3
EAST HAM LAB 3
EDMONTON LAB 3
HAYES AND HARLINGTON LAB 3
ILFORD SOUTH LAB 4
BIRMINGHAM, HODGE HILL LAB 5
DAGENHAM AND RAINHAM LAB 5
EALING, SOUTHALL LAB 5
HARROW EAST CON 5
WARLEY LAB 5

Nine out of 10 are Labour-held and all look rather urban to me!

The 10 constituencies with the biggest number of signatures to ban driven grouse shooting to date are;

ISLE OF WIGHT CON 84
PENRITH & THE BORDER CON 83
HIGH PEAK CON 69
NORTH NORFOLK LIB DEM 68
CALDER VALLEY CON 57
SOUTH CAMBRIDGESHIRE CON 55
STROUD CON 55
WESTMORLAND AND LONSDALE LIB DEM 55
COPELAND LAB 53
WEST DORSET CON 49

Seven out of 10 are Conservative-held, two are LibDem and one is Labour.  These look rather rural to me! It is also notable that several of these constituencies are in the English uplands in areas of driven grouse shooting (Penrith and the Border (seat of Defra Minister, Rory Stewart), High Peak, Westmorland and Lonsdale (seat of LibDem leader Tim Farron), and Calder Valley (which includes Hebden Bridge and Walshaw Moor))

Opposing driven grouse shooting is not the preserve of the ‘urban leftie’ – the charge is being led by rural Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, it seems (although this analysis is, of course, based on constituencies of particular political persuasion – we do not know which residents of those constituencies signed the e-petition).

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Support for a ban on driven grouse shooting is growing, and it is particularly strong in England and Scotland (where most grouse shooting occurs).

The constituencies which (between 22 July and 14 August) provided most support for the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting are rural ones, mostly Conservative rural ones. It is clear from this analysis that the idea that those opposing driven grouse shooting are primarily left-wing townies is nonsense.

Sign the e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

 

We can see that this database of e-petitions will form a valuable resource for researchers of social trends and politics.  Are certain e-petitions favoured by the same constituencies – and do these reflect party political lines.

Are marginal seats different – and what can you learn from them?  Are safe seats recognisable from e-petition voting preferences?

A question: does anyone know a dataset out there (preferably a free one) where measures of urban/rural nature are given for all constituencies?

13 Comments

  1. John Ranson says:

    Really interesting research Mark. I suspect a key factor in the figures is a possible tendency for birders to either come from or gravitate towards rural areas. It does, however, shatter the myth of killjoy townies telling countryfolk what they can’t do.
    Personally, I’m proud to see Norfolk well represented with an average of 43.2 in its predominantly rural constituencies and 35 in the more urban ones (Great Yarmouth and Norwich, North and South).

    On a slightly different tack, these data could be interpreted as a nudge to try and increase awareness of wildlife issues among folks living in the big cities. Although it may suit the shooters to carry on in their own bubble, our national wildlife deserves truly national support and should be enjoyed and appreciated by all, not just those lucky enough to live in the countryside.

    • Mark says:

      John – I agree. All sorts of possibilities here.

    • selma says:

      Unfortunately, I was part of a pro-hunting group and took part in grouse shooting on the beaters side so never had a rifle in my hand. Hunting foxes, deer and shooting grouse or pheasants is not about pest (although I hate that word in relation to animals) but about money. Most of the hunters or shooters are very well-to-do businessmen from the towns who take part in a hunt to gain contacts. In fact, it is a sort of corporate entertainment. Of course, the hunt/shoot takes place on various fields which the farmers own and hunters have to pay, what I assume, is a hefty licence fee to hunt/shoot on their land. This is what it is and because of this, animals have to die or suffer a very cruel death from snares and traps. This have to be banned whatever the cost. There are lot of other forms of alternative ‘entertainment’ which could benefit both the farmers and the corporate fat cats.

  2. porld says:

    The urban/rural data should be available from the ONS…

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/geography/products/area-classifications/2011-rural-urban/index.html

    If I get chance I’ll code up your constituency query to do it automatically.

    • Mark says:

      porld – magic! Many thanks

      • porld says:

        I expected the data interface to be better written than it is. I have some code that scrapes the numbers automatically from the webpage, which isn’t the best way to do it. I’ll polish it a bit and if it works out I’ll post a link here.

  3. […] yesterday’s analysis of where the signatures come from to support the e-petition on banning driven grouse shooting, here […]

  4. Rowan says:

    Proud to be one of the signatories from the top-voting Isle of Wight – though we have to admit our electorate is about twice the size of most constituencies so that may affect things…

    Your point about people from rural Conservative constituencies doesn’t really hold water, because the data don’t show anything more than where people live. It’s still entirely possible that most of the people who signed are not Conservative voters, because under ‘first-past-the-post’ voting an MP can get elected with only a minority of votes.
    (The country now has a government composed of 100% of a party that was voted for by only 25% of the electorate.)

    And the numbers are still so small (fewer than 100 of us here on the Isle of Wight with about 125000 people, which is I think about 70000 voters) that even if 99% of the voters had chosen the candidate who got in, the signatures could still be entirely from the small number of people who voted for somebody else.

    It’s also possible that all the people living in rural constituencies who signed the petition weren’t born there but grew up in towns.

    But I don’t think any of that is relevant anyway. If driven grouse shooting is wrong then it’s wrong. The motivation of the people signing (‘class war’ or whatever the hunters want to throw at us in their desperation) is actually nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of it. If the ‘management’ of grouse moors is harming hen harriers and other wildlife, and causing water pollution, and causing greenhouse gas emissions, then we’re right to protest about it, whatever way we vote and wherever we live.

  5. […] it is and how much lead there will be in their meal.  They should take a leaf out of the book of we real country people who are leading the campaign on banning driven grouse […]

  6. […] by the way (yet again), now 88 of your constituents have signed my e-petition – your constituents are still up there amongst the keenest in the […]

  7. […] of us living within it most of our lives. But as Mark recently demonstrated on his blog (see here and here), more people signed his e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting from Conservative rather […]

  8. […] Calder Valley (109), Norman Lamb’s North Norfolk (107), Stroud (106), and High Peak (94). As mentioned before, these aren’t exactly urban constituencies are […]

  9. […] I have blogged before about the fact that one of Tim Bonner’s and the Countryside Alliance’s errors (we are making quite a long list) is that those that oppose driven grouse shooting are a bunch of left-wing townies, whereas actually we know that it is in Conservative rural constituencies, like that of the Defra Minister Rory Stewart, where opposition to driven grouse shooting is strongest. […]

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  1. John Ranson says:

    Really interesting research Mark. I suspect a key factor in the figures is a possible tendency for birders to either come from or gravitate towards rural areas. It does, however, shatter the myth of killjoy townies telling countryfolk what they can’t do.
    Personally, I’m proud to see Norfolk well represented with an average of 43.2 in its predominantly rural constituencies and 35 in the more urban ones (Great Yarmouth and Norwich, North and South).

    On a slightly different tack, these data could be interpreted as a nudge to try and increase awareness of wildlife issues among folks living in the big cities. Although it may suit the shooters to carry on in their own bubble, our national wildlife deserves truly national support and should be enjoyed and appreciated by all, not just those lucky enough to live in the countryside.

    • Mark says:

      John – I agree. All sorts of possibilities here.

    • selma says:

      Unfortunately, I was part of a pro-hunting group and took part in grouse shooting on the beaters side so never had a rifle in my hand. Hunting foxes, deer and shooting grouse or pheasants is not about pest (although I hate that word in relation to animals) but about money. Most of the hunters or shooters are very well-to-do businessmen from the towns who take part in a hunt to gain contacts. In fact, it is a sort of corporate entertainment. Of course, the hunt/shoot takes place on various fields which the farmers own and hunters have to pay, what I assume, is a hefty licence fee to hunt/shoot on their land. This is what it is and because of this, animals have to die or suffer a very cruel death from snares and traps. This have to be banned whatever the cost. There are lot of other forms of alternative ‘entertainment’ which could benefit both the farmers and the corporate fat cats.

  2. porld says:

    The urban/rural data should be available from the ONS…

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/geography/products/area-classifications/2011-rural-urban/index.html

    If I get chance I’ll code up your constituency query to do it automatically.

    • Mark says:

      porld – magic! Many thanks

      • porld says:

        I expected the data interface to be better written than it is. I have some code that scrapes the numbers automatically from the webpage, which isn’t the best way to do it. I’ll polish it a bit and if it works out I’ll post a link here.

  3. […] yesterday’s analysis of where the signatures come from to support the e-petition on banning driven grouse shooting, here […]

  4. Rowan says:

    Proud to be one of the signatories from the top-voting Isle of Wight – though we have to admit our electorate is about twice the size of most constituencies so that may affect things…

    Your point about people from rural Conservative constituencies doesn’t really hold water, because the data don’t show anything more than where people live. It’s still entirely possible that most of the people who signed are not Conservative voters, because under ‘first-past-the-post’ voting an MP can get elected with only a minority of votes.
    (The country now has a government composed of 100% of a party that was voted for by only 25% of the electorate.)

    And the numbers are still so small (fewer than 100 of us here on the Isle of Wight with about 125000 people, which is I think about 70000 voters) that even if 99% of the voters had chosen the candidate who got in, the signatures could still be entirely from the small number of people who voted for somebody else.

    It’s also possible that all the people living in rural constituencies who signed the petition weren’t born there but grew up in towns.

    But I don’t think any of that is relevant anyway. If driven grouse shooting is wrong then it’s wrong. The motivation of the people signing (‘class war’ or whatever the hunters want to throw at us in their desperation) is actually nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of it. If the ‘management’ of grouse moors is harming hen harriers and other wildlife, and causing water pollution, and causing greenhouse gas emissions, then we’re right to protest about it, whatever way we vote and wherever we live.

  5. […] it is and how much lead there will be in their meal.  They should take a leaf out of the book of we real country people who are leading the campaign on banning driven grouse […]

  6. […] by the way (yet again), now 88 of your constituents have signed my e-petition – your constituents are still up there amongst the keenest in the […]

  7. […] of us living within it most of our lives. But as Mark recently demonstrated on his blog (see here and here), more people signed his e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting from Conservative rather […]

  8. […] Calder Valley (109), Norman Lamb’s North Norfolk (107), Stroud (106), and High Peak (94). As mentioned before, these aren’t exactly urban constituencies are […]

  9. […] I have blogged before about the fact that one of Tim Bonner’s and the Countryside Alliance’s errors (we are making quite a long list) is that those that oppose driven grouse shooting are a bunch of left-wing townies, whereas actually we know that it is in Conservative rural constituencies, like that of the Defra Minister Rory Stewart, where opposition to driven grouse shooting is strongest. […]

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